A Reading IT worker caught three times trying to smuggle more than 200,000 undeclared cigarettes through Heathrow Airport said he was trying to fund his dad's cancer treatment, a court heard. 

Lookman Kukoyi, 39, of Branksome Court, Reading, was detained by customs officers in May, July and November last year.

Security noticed that he was carrying a large number of suitcases, despite travelling alone.

When quizzed about these, Kukoyi claimed he was bringing back clothes and souvenirs for his family from Nigeria.

Each time the bags were searched, however, officials found that the defendant was carrying tens of thousands of cigarettes.

In total, 229,800 cigarettes were seized.

At Reading Crown Court today (June 5), prosecuting barrister Jackalyn Chan revealed that the value of the duty owed was estimated to be around £80,000.

Judge Neil Millard said: "It was an attempt to cheat the public purse of revenue."

Defence barrister Ciara Moran outlined the circumstances behind the mammoth smuggling attempt.

Kukoyi, an IT contractor, has been financing the treatment of his father in Nigeria, who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

To this end, he racked up tens of thousands of pounds in debt.

Through contacts in Nigeria, he ultimately got involved with a cigarette smuggling operation, with an eye to supporting his family.

Mrs Moran said: "While this was motivated by funding his father's medical care, it wasn't motivated by personal gain."

Judge Millard acknowledged Kukoyi's family situation - but took issue with some of his other claims.

He told the defendant: "There is something in your character that causes me concern, because there is a streak of dishonesty about you.

"That makes it difficult for me to accept everything I've been told about you."

In particular, the judge took issue with Kukoyi's portrayal of himself as a mere 'runner,' suggesting he may have played a more significant role in the smuggling operation.

The judge said: "You had to get rid of 229,000 cigarettes. That's not a simple task to do."

Nevertheless, Judge Millard acknowledged that the crime was effectively victimless, and that Kukoyi - an educated professional - could be feasibly rehabilitated.

He was handed a 20-month prison sentence, suspended for 20 months.

In addition, he must complete 300 hours of unpaid work and 20 days of rehabilitation activities.